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AEP-Advance

A course guide for International Office AEP advance students taught by Smyth

Evaluate Sources

Definitions

"The set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. . . . Students must demonstrate competencies in formulating research questions and in their ability to use information as well as an understanding of ethical and legal issues surrounding information. This requires a campus culture of collaboration and focus on student learning."

A compelling research question provides structure to research. Your thesis statement can be thought of as the one sentence answer to this question; the rest of your paper or project is an explanation of that answer. A good research question:

  • Contains parameters (boundaries). For example, "Why did witchcraft trials stop?" is a good start to a research question, but "How did agricultural developments in seventeenth century England lead to the decline of witchcraft trials in that country?" is stronger because it contains more parameters.
  • Is controversial, meaning that there are multiple possible answers.
  • Is interesting to you!

Your research question will help you determine what sources to use.

Inclination, leaning, prejudice, predisposition

A biased source is one in which the creator has a view of the issue at hand that had an effect on how they created the source. From the synonyms above, you can see that this can be to a small or large degree. Everyone has biases, and someone with a bias can still write a worthwhile source, but it is up to you to consider how much of a bias is present. Be aware of the biases inherent when an organization has a legislative agenda or is trying to sell something. 

Peer review is a process scholarly articles go through before they are published. Scholarly articles are sent to other experts in the field (peers) to ensure that they contain high-quality, original research important to the field. This is a measure of quality control other types of literature don't go through. 

 

If you can't tell whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrichsweb.

  1. Log into Ulrichweb.
  2. Type in the title of the journal.
  3. Peer-reviewed journals will have a referee jersey ("refereed" is another term for "peer-reviewed") - example below

Evaluation Criteria

Use the criteria below to help you evaluate a source.  As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your topic or information need. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.
  • Weigh all four criteria when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative site for your information.
  • When in doubt about a source, talk about it with your professor or a librarian.

Criteria to consider:

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this the type of information you need (ex. a research study or scholarly article)? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic?
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to?  Is this a research study with methods you can follow? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

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